Two fast-moving wildfires that exploded in the Southern California hills have claimed nine lives and forced thousands to flee their homes, including the entire city of Malibu, a sprawling naval base and many Hollywood celebrity homes.
Fanned by ferocious Santa Ana winds and fueled by dry tinder, the fires immolated a mountain town and jangled the nerves of many tens of thousands of residents forced to evacuate their homes. "These firefighters were in the rescue mode all day yesterday". Traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock and residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said.
Wind in the valley calmed down, but they were still shifting and erratic along the ridgetops, with speeds of up to 45 miles per hour, he said.
Resident Shari Bernacett told the Associated Press that she "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to get mobile home residents to leave as fire consumed the hillside.
"The perimeter is now the Pacific Ocean", Richardson said.
Detective Mark Bass - who lives in Paradise, a town of 27,000 people, about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco - said he got his family to safety and then returned to help others.
"Anything to bring more attention to Paradise. God help us!" she said before breaking down crying.
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The blaze burned an estimated 14,000 acres as of 11 a.m. and prompted mass evacuations of more than 75,000 homes in Ventura and LA counties.
According to the National Weather Service, the strong winds are expected to continue through Friday.
The fire in Paradise was reported shortly after daybreak Thursday.
"It's my sad duty to confirm that we now have a total of nine fatalities", he said, four more fatalities beyond the five reported earlier.
The dead were found in the same part of Paradise, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said. "The south side as well as the north side has been hit very hard as well". "The message I want to get out is if you can evacuate, you need to evacuate", Honea said. Evacuation centers were set up at Palisades High School and at Taft High School in Woodland Hills.
As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and toppled utility poles. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running". After an hour of no movement, she abandoned the truck and chose to try her luck on foot. "They were abandoned because traffic was so bad, backed up for hours". Flames were feet away, smoke was thick, cars weren't moving and people were panicking.
At one burned-out house, flames still smoldered inside what appeared to be a weight room.
Chico police officer John Barker and his partner evacuated several elderly people from an apartment complex.
Malibu and the surrounding areas have been hit by many devastating wildfires over the years. "I don't think, there's not going to be a home left in Paradise".